Master Gardeners

Horticulture program cultivates
more than a green thumb

Oldham, Shelby, Floyd counties
have active programs

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(April 2004) – Having a green thumb is not a requirement for students enrolled in the Master Gardener Program, but most have been bitten by the gardening bug in one form or another. Whether seasoned seniors or novice freshmen, all participants share a desire to attain a more in-depth knowledge of gardening.

Kentucky edition cover
Kentucky edition cover

The original Master Gardener Program began as a national program in 1972 in Seattle. Since the late 1980s, the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service has run the Kentucky Master Gardeners Program. “It’s a 16-week intensive gardening course,” said instructor Tim McClure, Shelby County Cooperative Extension Agent for Horticulture.
McClure works with Oldham County Horticultural Agent Ron Thomas to educate students beyond garden club basics. The Shelby County class joins with an Oldham County class, meeting in each location on alternating weeks. Students have also come from Trimble and Spencer counties to participate in this program.
This year’s class began Feb. 5, and McClure said he preferred a spring class as opposed to a fall class. Topics to be covered, such as tree pruning, will “coincide with what’s going on outside,” said McClure.
For a fee of $125, 25 students receive a manual, handouts and other related material to further their interest in gardening and the role it plays in their own community. Topics covered may include botany, soils and pesticides, propagation, landscape design, vegetable gardening, trees and shrubs, woody plants, annuals and perennials, fruits, home composting and organic gardening. There are quizzes throughout the course. A final written exam must be passed to obtain Master Gardener certification.
Thomas said this program is really a continuing education program that most students take for “their own personal satisfaction. It provides intensive training in the science of horticulture and practical use,” he said.
In exchange for their many hours of instruction, graduates are required to give 40 hours of community volunteer service. Thomas said it is this “aspect of community service” that draws many gardeners and would-be gardeners to the program. Many of the students are highly motivated to invest their time and money into a program that will in turn provide aesthetic beauty to the community.

Gird, Ezman, Olson

Photo provided

From left, Paulette Gird, June Ezman
and Jean Olson plant flowers at Yew
Dell Gardens in Crestwood, Ky., as part
of the Master Gardeners program.

In Oldham County, Master Gardener graduates have given back to the community in a variety of ways. Several gardeners have joined with a local elementary school to construct a naturalized planting area close to the school, and a vegetable project was implemented at the middle school level. A number of Master Gardeners volunteer their knowledge and manpower at Yew Dell Gardens in Crestwood, Ky., during monthly “volunteer days.”
Ann Corts is one of the Yew Dell volunteers and said her efforts have gone toward cleaning out and pulling weeds because the property had not been maintained after owner Theodore Klein passed away in 1998. Corts chose to volunteer at Yew Dell because it was local and “a great place. There’s a lot of plant material there.”
Although a lot of work has been accomplished so far, Corts said she is eager to see the gardens when they come to fruition. Her interest in gardening led her to Yew Dell, but it is the excitement of the end result that gratifies her and other Master Gardeners.
Corts became involved in the program on the suggestion of Thomas. She had just moved into a new home and was undecided on how to landscape it. After Thomas looked at her property, he suggested she take the Master Gardeners program to learn first-hand how to care for her property.
In addition, Corts is a member of Oldham County’s Green Thumbs Garden Club, which educates members through tours and speakers.
Many participants of the Master Gardener Program have been gardening for many years, said McClure. They desire to obtain a more scientific knowledge of their hobby or passion.
Crestwood resident Karla Drover has wanted to take the Master Gardeners Program for 20 years but has never been able to because of time restraints and employment.
While living in Texas, the closest program was more than an hour’s drive away. She often managed to work her hobby into every job she had. “You figure out ways to incorporate what you love into what you do,” she said.

Sharon Nichols, Tim McClure

Photo provided

Sharon Nichols and Tim McClure of
Shelby County's Master Gardener program.

Drover, who is halfway through the program, said the expertise she has gained so far has been beneficial. She has learned things through this program that she wished she had known when she began gardening 30 years ago. Drover said it is a worthwhile program.
Local extension agents invest the time and effort to make it a great program, she said. Drover has volunteered at Yew Dell Gardens and said there are lots of volunteer opportunities in the Louisville area, such as Brightside and Cedar Lake Homes. Many facilities would like to have help with property maintenance, she said.
“The classes provide a good basis,” from which to start, said Lisa Davis. Davis is president of the Shelby County Master Gardeners Association, a non- profit organization that formed to “provide a gardening service,” said Davis.
Master Gardeners are more than willing to share their knowledge after completing the course. They are trained to assist the local extension offices, said Davis.
One completed project the Association has donated time to was the establishment of planters in the downtown district of Shelbyville. Master Gardeners are presently constructing an arboretum at Clear Creek Park in Shelbyville. Students collaborate on as many “hands-on” projects as possible, said Thomas.
Davis said she would never have had the opportunity to work on the arboretum project if it were not for the Master Gardeners program. The Master Gardeners will hold their fourth annual Garden Fair from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on April 24 at the Shelby County Fairgrounds.

Sacred Heart Gardens

Photo provided

Master Gardener volunteers pant
flowers at Sacred Heart Gardens
in Floyd County, Ind.

Lonnie Mason, Jefferson County, Ind., Extension Agent for Horticulture, said he sees a wide range of students participating in the Indiana Master Gardener Program. Students enrolled in the program range in age from early 20s to 70s, he said.
Those taking the class gain a wide variety of gardening knowledge in the form of “personal knowledge.” It is a good way to fellowship with other gardeners and network, Mason said. The program is held in the Madison area every other year, and a new class will either begin Fall 2004 or January 2005.
The Indiana Master Gardeners Program has existed for 14 years. Paulette Gird of Oldham County, Ky., completed the program sponsored by Purdue University through the Floyd County, Ind., Extension Program and described herself as having been “an avid gardener all my life.”
She has volunteered at many Floyd County, Ind., sites, such as the Falls of the Ohio, Floyd County Memorial Hospital, and Mount St. Francis. There are 14 different support sites for the Indiana program, and each site has to be approved by the program sponsor, she said.
“Every state has a Master Gardener Program,” said Gird. Every hour of classroom time has to be matched with an hour of volunteer service. It is a Master Gardener’s responsibility “to teach and support the community,” she said.
For instance, in Northern Kentucky, Master Gardeners from Kentucky and Ohio in June 2003 placed flowering pots all along the new Purple Bridge, a walking bridge over the Ohio River near Newport that opened last year. More than 45 master gardeners took part in the project during the International Master Gardeners Conference held in Cincinnati. The gardeners added hundreds of plants and flowers to beautify the redesigned pedestrian bridge.
“A lot of people were choosing to go on tours, but I just prefer more hands-on things,” said gardener Don Parker of West Salem, Ohio, said at the time. “This is the fun part of gardening – to get your hands into it.”
The bridge project was a joint effort by the UK Cooperative Extension Service offices in Boone, Campbell and Kenton Counties, along with Ohio State University Extension and the OSU horticulture department.
To promote the Master Gardener Program, many Master Gardeners participate in such Indiana events as the Indiana Flower and Patio Show and State Fair. Hospice, Haven House and a Youth Gardening Program are also ways Master Gardeners can give back to the community.

• Contact the Oldham County Extension Office at (502) 222-9453, the Shelby County Extension Office at (502) 633-4593, or the Jefferson County, Ind., Extension Office at (812) 265-8919.

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